Reviewing Oregon Men's Pepsi Win

The Oregon men had a surprisingly thorough domination of the Pepsi Team Invitational. Recently Washington had finished with its second consecutive top ten performance at the NCAA indoor championships. Penn State had just had its best Big 10 indoor performance ever (fourth) and Minnesota is consistently one of the top programs in the country.

Oregon competitors won 12 of the 19 events and had five 1-2 finishes. Based on 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring (9-7-6-5 relay scoring) Oregon scored 230 points (just .5 points off the record set by Oregon in 1989) to Penn State's 150, Minnesota had 140.50 and Washington scored 125.5.

The first completed event was the men's 3,000 steeplechase. Chris Winter pushed the pace and just made regional qualifying (9:04.99) in winning for the third consecutive year (among collegians). Behind him redshirt freshman Isaac Stoutenburgh was challenging 2007 NCAA competitor Carl Moe. In the last lap Stoutenburgh passed Moe to get valuable second place points (9:10.09 to 9:14.90) in his debut in the event. The 4x100 meter relay was the next completed event. Oregon's Marcus Dillon put Oregon in first after the initial leg. NCAA indoor 60 competitor Ibrahim Kabia of Minnesota pulled slightly ahead of Ashton Eaton of Oregon on the second leg. Phil Alexander moved ahead of Minnesota's Sayfe Jassim by five meters on the third leg and Jared Huske finished off the win for the Ducks in 40.20 (faster than last season's best time by the Ducks), the fastest time at this event since the Pepsi Team Invitational was restarted in 2003 and the Pac-10's and West Regional's top time.

The next three completed events were Duck 1-2 finishes and almost a 1-2-3 in the hammer throw as freshman Jordan Stray edged teammate Colin Veldman (199-7 to 198-7) and Stephen Johnson finished fourth (194-10) behind Husky Zach Midles' fifth round throw of 198-5. The 1500 was a 1-2-3 finishes as Chris Winter came back from the steeple to lead defending champion (collegian) Andrew Wheating and fellow Ducks Joaquin Chapa and James Withers. Winter pulled off after two laps and Withers took the lead. With one lap to go Wheating led Chapa and ran a 56.1 final lap for his second consecutive Pepsi championship and West Regional qualifying time (3:47.11 to 3:48.78 for Chapa). Withers completed the sweep. Later Wheating said, "this was a big break-out run for me, I've only run this race twice in college and once in high school." The surprise 1-2 finish was in the 110 hurdles as Ducks Eaton and Huske went against 2007 5th place finisher at the Big 10 meet, Ron Jules of Penn State. Huske's first high hurdle meet of the season was impressive as he led Eaton over all nine hurdles but Eaton caught him after the last hurdle to win in 14.30 to Huske's 14.31. The score was Oregon 73, Minnesota 35, Penn State 32, and Washington 29.

Husky seven-time jump all-American Norris Frederick won on fewer misses over Duck AJ O'Connell at 2.02 meters, 6-7 ½. Oregon teammates Vernell Warren, Aaron McVein, and Alexey Shkuratov went 3, 4, 5. Later he won the Long Jump with a wind-aided jump of 7.57m, 24-10 over Ducks Ashton Eaton 7.29m 23-11 and Vernell Warren 7.04m 23-1 ¼ for Norris Frederick's second double win at the Pepsi Team Invitational (also 2006).

NCAA 100 meter West Regional qualifier Phil Alexander added a regional qualifier and led Sophomore teammate Chad Barlow to a 1-2 sweep in the 400 (47.13 to 47.39) and later came back to lead fellow senior and Duck Marcus Dillon in the 200 in 20.74 another West Regional qualifier, a personal best, and a meet record (fourth all-time UO). Ibrahim Kabia of Minnesota finished second in the 200, ahead of Dillon, after winning his second Pepsi Team Invite 100 (repeat of 2006) in a 2.3 meters/second wind-aided time of 10.39 and also ahead of Dillon (all-conditions pr of 10.48 and a regional qualifier).

Duck Mark Lewis had a surprise personal record win in the Shot Put (17.26 meters, 56-7 ½) and another pr at 46.73m, 153-4 in the Discus for third. Colin Veldman won the Discus in a season best 53.30m, 175-4. David Nyland of Washington had a 10 foot pr (threw 215-10 while unattached last year) to win the Pepsi Team Invite over last year's NCAA finalist, Tanner Evak of Penn State, at 226-0 to 218-10. Sophomore ColinWitter-Tilton won over tight competition in the pole vault with a clearance of 5.05m, 16-6 ¾.

Star freshman middle distance runner Sam Borchers of Penn State outkicked NCAA competitors for a 1.6 second pr and his first regional qualifying standard at 1:49.94 in the 800 ahead of two-time Pepsi Team runner-up Hans Storvick of Penn State and jostled Mike McGrath of Oregon (ever time he tried to open up his stride he was knocked by runners behind him in the last 100 meters). 2007 NCAA competitor James Frederickson of Washington overcame a season-best by Jared Huske to win the 400 meter hurdles at 52.16 to 52.97. The Penn State men went 1-2 in the triple jump with a regional qualifying performance of 15.21m, 49-11 and Jay Pagana jumped a wind-aided 14.99m, 49-2 ¼.

The Oregon men finished with two impressive victories in the last two events. Once again the distance runners employed team tactics in the men's 5,000 meter race. Carlos Trujillo pushed the early pace, but many Ducks were missing. NCAA Duck all-American Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott was held out with a strained Achilles but recently minted NCAA indoor mile all-American Andrew Acosta and members of the NCAA cross country champion team took on fellow conference cross country freshman of the year, Hassan Mead of Minnesota, and his teammate and cross country all-American Chris Rombough. Two Duck cross country all-Americans Daniel and Diego Mercado were in Stanford where they ran 10,000 meter provisional qualifying marks of 29:04.24 and 29:14.58, respectively. Another cross country all-American, Kenny Klotz, is competing unattached this year and may redshirt.

Eventually Acosta, Mead and freshman Chad Hall pushed ahead of Rombaugh and set a tough pace. Unfortunately Hall dropped off after two miles and it was a battle between Mead, now in the lead, and Acosta. The last lap was a great battle. Together they ran the next 200 in 32.6 seconds and Acosta finished the last 200 in 28.6 seconds to finish the last lap in 61.2 seconds and finished in 13:57.81 to Mead's 13:57.87, Rombough in 14:07.37 and Chad Hall debuted in 14:18.02. Acosta commented later that "Hassan is a great runner. I knew he was going to be tough." He also commented that "I got a great draft off of Hassan and I just went with it." The first four runners had prs, Oregon's 4x400 meter relay cruised to an easy victory in 3:11.56 and Oregon had a massive team victory.

Phil Alexander participated in that winning 4x400 relay and said what everyone was looking forward to, a repeat of the Pac-10 championship. "My goal is to make the trials this summer, but first and foremost on everybody's mind is the Pac-10 championships." Oregon now has 15 competitors with marks (or will debut soon) that put them in the first five qualifiers of the West regional championships (first five finishers at the West Regionals advance to the NCAA championships). This is a very good sign for Oregon to win the Pac-10 championships and score well at the NCAA championships.

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